September 7-15, 2015
Kyra: As I was looking up the history of Venetian masks, I came across this article on the, supposedly, haunted island of Poveglia.
Ben: I knew a gondola ride might not fit our budget, but didn’t know they were over $100/hr! This New York Times article explains more.
How we got there
Kyra: In Český Krumlov, I carefully constructed a series of buses, trains, and rideshares that would bring us to Dubrovnik, Croatia next. Ben looked at my precariously structured timetable, was a reasonable human being, and once again the next month of our lives shifted. The peripatetic, flexible nature of our travel is incredibly frustrating and entirely liberating, though often not at once. In Israel, I learned that it costs $1 to put in a land mine and $100 to take it out. To me, trip planning seems to be the inverse sentiment. You might spend an hour scouring the internet for a train timetable in a remote city, then in a fraction of the time it took to put together that itinerary, ask yourself, “what if we didn’t spend ten hours in a car traveling through the middle of the night with a man who has good ratings but whom we’ve never met. What if we went to Venice instead?”
Kyra: Luckily, Ben’s college roommate, Nicholas (Salty), lives in Innsbruck, Austria with his girlfriend (Babsi), and they were willing to host us last minute on our way to Venice. We arrived to their apartment at nearly midnight and were met with homemade chicken schnitzel and a neatly made bed.
Ben: To get from the Czech Republic to Venice, we went via train from the Austrian town of Linz, through Innsbruck, and to Venice. One thing I was worried about was booking all the train tickets for these journeys at the station. My fear completely evaporated when we were greeted by Sasha at the desk. He handled all of our questions with succinct answers, gave us suggestions for our route, and was endlessly happy while doing it. If there was anyone that perfectly fit their job, he was it.
Where we stayed
Ben: As anyone who has planned a long trip knows, finding accommodation (especially on the go) can be a bit of a toss up. Sure, you can do a lot of research online, look at Google Street View, TripAdvisor, and the reviews of different places, but you never really know until you get there. Our place in Venice looked quite a bit different in my head (and online) before we arrived, but then again so did Venice itself.
Ben: Kyra and I ended up staying about an hour bus ride from Venice (this fact didn’t fully sink in until we were on said bus one fine morning) in a smaller town called Jesolo.
Kyra: If you are familiar with Twin Cities Suburbs, imagine Maple Grove, then add a beach, very loud Italians, and subtract wifi – that is where we stayed.
Ben: There a lot of older people, cars, and dogs (mostly being walked by the older people), but not much in the way of night-life, Wifi, or coffee shops. Of course, there were pizza and gelato places aplenty. Just 2km down the road (I’m getting better at the metric system everyday) was a nice beach town, Lido di Jesolo, where we spent a number of days due to the activities available in Jesolo Centro (few).
Ben: Our Airbnb host stayed with us a few nights and entertained us with her view on Italy, watching the Italian version of Deal or No Deal (complete with a country-themed set as well as a “set dog” that seemed to be there only as eye candy), and her loud chats on the phone. We used most of the week to catch up on reading, practicing cooking, and taking photographs. Overall it ended up being a refreshing stay with some time at the beach, biking, hiking, and day trips.
Ben: Combine great food, generous staff, and a Western style interior (NOT Pizza Ranch™) to get Alla Tavernetta. You know when you’re in a totally new place and someone is unexpectedly nice to you, makes you inexpensive delicious food, and then says “Ciao!” to you like 7 times? Well, maybe that doesn’t happen everywhere, but it’s what happened there, and I couldn’t have been happier. I made Kyra go back three times.
Ben: This wasn’t in Venice, it was in a small town called Gorizia, but I’m adding it because it was still in Italy. It came highly recommended on TripAdvisor and wow did it meet expectations. We ordered gnocchi with fig, crepes filled with zucchini, buttered spinach, and a traditional potato and onion Slovenian dish (it was in Italy, but about 10 blocks from the Slovenian border).
Local View and Lessons Learned
Kyra: When we arrived in the city of Venice, which is in fact an island (lesson within a lesson), we made our way to a restaurant. Once the bill came, we noticed 4 Euros had been added to the total with a note next to the number “Coperto.” Apparently a great number of restaurants, not only in Venice proper, charge guests a cover charge.
Ben: A lesson that’s slowly coming into focus for me is that fear is one of our strongest emotions. Before this trip I had many fears (probably from crappy movies about travelers being robbed or killed, and/or stories of acquaintances or friends being pick pocketed and mugged) but most of them are slowly vanishing. Whether or not this is a good thing is yet to be seen, but with a few of these nerves drying up, I’m finding that almost everyone we meet on our way is very kind. At hotels, restaurants, beaches, and train stations, people are willing to work with you and help even if they don’t speak a word of your language. Kyra and I realized that speaking English is a luxury, but even still the people we’ve met and conversed with were never angry or rude, they took the time to help us through whatever situation we were in. Although Minnesota isn’t exactly a travel hub, it makes me think about how to change my own behavior towards “strangers” on our return.
Ben: And now for a second, less in depth paragraph: Our host was quite concerned with political corruption and illegal immigration within Italy. It seemed from what she said that a number of those high in political seats within Italy were involved in some shady enterprises. She also mentioned that even before the Syrian conflict, Italy struggled with a high number of people crossing their borders without proper documentation and “stealing” their jobs – sounds like a US news story. I guess the point of this is that every country is dealing with similar problems, but we all seem to build ours up like they’re the worst. It helps to take a step back.
Kyra: Ben’s point reminds me of similar thought I had when we got to Innsbruck, on our way to Venice. Salty and Babsi not only stayed up late on a work night to welcome us, they also cooked us dinner and chatted with us after a day of travel, which was profoundly kind and infinitely more appreciated.
Kyra: If you ever want to visit Venice, here is how to do it: stay in Treviso, a city that has the same winding streets and waterways that Venice does with a fraction of the tourists. From Treviso, you can day trip to Padua (Padova), Prosecco vineyards, Venice, Jesolo, or any number of other places via public transit for 2,80 – 10 euros roundtrip. Do not stay in Venice. It is an island of tourists, which makes it incredibly pricey and realistically less beautiful.
Ciao – Hi/Bye
Mama Mia! – Oh my God!
Bongiorno – Hello
Buono Sera (or just Sera) – Good afternoon (really from about 6pm-8pm)
Ben: Kyra and I tried to visit Treviso three times. Try #1: Our ride cancels on us and we’re left to walk around Jesolo searching for free wifi. Try #2: We purchased our bus tickets and realizing we had just missed the bus, walked around for awhile. At 11:15, we returned, waiting for our 11:22 bus. A bus shows up at 11:21, but it says San Dona (another town north of Jesolo), so we opt not to hop in. Turns out that was our connection. Finally, on Try #3 we make it to Treviso. It’s a spectacular town bordered by a river and large stone walls.